In November 2001, the footballing world was in shock when Wales manager Gary Speed was found to have committed suicide. Following a very successful playing career, and what appeared to be a dream job managing his national team, many could not fathom how someone who had everything on the surface, could take his own life. Unfortunately that is the nature of depression. Even close friends and family were unaware of Gary Speed’s demons – most suffering with the illness battle not only their condition, but the stigma that goes along with it.
There is an improving knowledge and acceptance of depression as a legitimate illness, however many still cannot relate to the condition and are unable to differentiate being seriously depressed with having a few off days. Here, we look at the different symptoms of depression and how it can affect individuals:
Continuous Low Mood
This is the obvious starting point. The most commonly associated symptom of being depressed is having a low mood, lack of interest in things and a lack of energy. When trying to identify if someone is depressed, this change in behaviour should be noted when there are not any obvious valid explanations, i.e. a death in the family, loss of a job, bad exam results etc.
Feeling Guilt Ridden & Anxious
People feeling depressed often show signs of anxiety and guilt and might seem on edge for no apparent reason. This is to do with the chemical imbalance in the brain. Other signs are irritability and a low tolerance levels for others.
At the worst stage, some people cannot see a way out and feel suicidal. The mental and physical symptoms of depression make them feel like nothing will improve and suicide is the only way to escape the torture of their current situation. As stated with Gary Speed, the stigma that has been attached to depression has stopped some people speaking out about their issues and then it is unfortunately too late.
In addition to mental symptoms, depression can manifest itself and affect physical functions:
Change In Sleep
Depression often causes individuals sleep patterns to change. This may be that they struggle to get to sleep and keep waking up, or that they sleep more. Often it can be a combination of the two – failing to sleep at night and then not wanting to get out of bed in the morning.
Changes In Appetite
Mostly appetite is reduced during depression, but on occasions it can increase. Noticing a change in eating habits can be a good indicator of whether someone is potentially depressed.
Depression has the effect of making its sufferers feel lethargic, slow and tired on a regular basis. It is a vicious cycle as the method to improve energy and endorphins in the body is to exercise, however when people have depression, both physically and mentally this can be a difficult idea to entertain.
Perception of depression is slowly changing, but not fast enough. If there was no stigma or judgement of those with the illness, then undoubtedly numerous lives could be saved on a yearly basis as people will seek psychological support for depression and be more open about their issues as opposed to feeling there is no way out.